Written By // Cailin McNamara
Liberty University students attended a not-so-ordinary convocation in January.
President-elect Donald Trump spoke at the university during the electoral primaries. He spoke about his background, policies and his Christian worldview.
A week later Liberty’s president Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Trump.
“I stand by Jerry’s decision to endorse Trump, I think he will do better for our country than any of the other choices,” said Thomas East, student of Liberty University.
But not all Liberty students felt that way. So some of them decided to make their feelings known by circulating a petition.
Liberty United Against Trump is a student group that was formed several months later, after a video is released of Trump making vulgar comments about a woman.
The students issued a statement criticizing the president-elect and Falwell for defending his offensive comments.
This statement is filled with reasons as to why they believe that Donald Trump does not represent the values of Liberty and these students want nothing to do with him.
Values such as respect for women, a clean sense of humor, and being opposed to racism are values that Liberty United Against Trump says should disqualify Trump for the support of evangelical voters.
Dustin Wahl, a spokesperson for Liberty United against Trump, believed Trump was a bad candidate for president and that he promotes things that Christians oppose.
“It wasn’t so much as a stop Trump political statement,” Wahl said. “It was as much as it was we want to disassociate this man with our university and let the world know Liberty University teaches values to students that Donald Trump does not embody.”
Falwell said he was proud of the students for speaking their minds but was sure to make a point that the statement was illogical and false.
In an article in the News & Advance, Falwell said he believed the student statement ignored the teachings of Jesus about not judging others. Falwell also said that is because they are young and still learning.
“I don’t want to call our president a liar, but it wasn’t true when he said that what we were saying wasn’t true,” Wahl said.
In an effort to illustrate that Liberty is not Trump University, Liberty United against Trump started the petition.
They gained about 1,300 signatures of support from students, alumni and faculty.
“I signed the petition against Trump because I believe he is giving our school a bad name, as well as our country,” said Liz Doherty, a sophomore at Liberty.
While many students also believe that Trump is giving Liberty a bad name, there are others who found the petition to be dividing the school.
“I think it is absolutely ridiculous,” said Jacqueline Lane, a Liberty government student. “This group thinks they are helping the name of Liberty University when in reality they are showing the world how divided and unsupportive of Jerry we have become.”
Like at Liberty, Republican groups from other Virginia universities struggled with their presidential choice as well.
The University of Virginia College Republicans chose to rescind their endorsement for Trump. They issued a statement that said he does not accurately represents the way they view and conduct themselves.
Virginia Tech and James Madison University College Republicans did not publicly endorse Trump but gave support to the Republican nominee.
In a tweet from Tyler McNally, a Liberty United against Trump member, he said he does not feel like he attends a Christian university anymore, but a Republican one with some Christian classes thrown in.
“Having our president on Fox with Liberty University written behind him is such a high profile endorsement for Donald Trump, therefore a high profile endorsement of the things Trump stands for,” Wahl said. “As Christians we believe that can be challenging to our witness to people.”
Wahl says he believes there is a sizeable number of Liberty students who want to be known as champions for Christ, not as champions of Donald Trump.
“We want to let the world know that Liberty University is not Trump University,” Wahl said. “We are not associated with Donald Trump the way our president is.”
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